Getting Students to Solve Problems in Math Class
"They truly are a game changer that will motivate students to engage with your content, enjoy themselves while doing it, and help you as a teacher synthesize the main ideas of your lessons."
The reusable WipeBook Flipcharts are an essential tool that should be utilized in all classrooms, especially math! They can enhance the learning experience in many ways and will create memorable lessons when orchestrated by teachers with some useful norms and ideas. I can’t move on without giving credit to Ed Campos for introducing me to Wipebook during his 360 Math session at the California Math Council Asilomar conference. This conference was also based on the work of Peter Liljedahl whose awesome book “Building Thinking Classrooms” revolves around the idea of VNPS (Vertical non-permanent surfaces). In this blog post, I will detail how Wipebook Flipcharts improve students' willingness to engage, enhancements, and ways Wipebook help synthesize your lesson goals.
Willingness for Students to Engage
The number one reason to use Wipebook Flipcharts is to get students to engage with your content. Have you ever tried teaching students to solve equations? We adopted the highly rated Open Up Resources 6-8 Math curriculum at our school and every year we get to Unit 4, doodling and disengagement ramps up when it’s time to solve equations. Students avoid eye contact, don’t share with peers, and tend to shut down. Once you assign students to 1 of our 10 Wipebook stations in your room in groups of 3, students suddenly start to try things out. I can spot errors quickly. I can ask questions. Students start asking questions to each other and myself. It is truly amazing. Be sure you implement a very important norm though: whoever is doing the math, is not writing. Pass the one marker per group to another person if you want something inked on the board. Peter’s research shows students are much more willing to try because it’s so easy to erase something with your finger. Wipebook products offer a wealth of formative assessment and tell you who is struggling with integers or distributive property for example. It informs my next moves that minute, lesson, and future lessons.
There are a few tips I can offer to make the experience more enjoyable for you and your students. First off, get some duct tape to reinforce the edges of your Wipebooks. This will keep them from tearing. Also, buy some velcro to attach to the top of the boards with the other side on a marker. This soft side doubles as a way to erase their writing also. Students also enjoy having some music on while working. I highly suggest Gloria Estefan’s “Get On Your Feet.” A great suggestion I got from Ed Campos is to have a gallery walk where students can move clockwise to their neighbours' poster to give feedback, like 2 stars and a wish. Ed plays Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” to get students to move “to the left, to the left.” Prior to the pandemic, I would use Flippity.net to randomly assign students to groups of 3 which I will return to once we don’t have to do contact tracing anymore.
Wipebooks Help Facilitate Lesson Synthesis & Anchor Charts
One of the most important parts of the lesson is synthesis. This is where I ensure that students are directly instructed on the main ideas of the lesson and that we achieve our learning goals. In the picture below, you can see I used the grid paper side of the Flipchart to graph two linear equations to show that the point of intersection is the solution to both equations. I also used it to model to my 6th grade Science students how to plot their experimental versus control plant growth data.
In this next picture, you can see how I created an anchor chart on chart paper using #purposefulcolor to have a permanent artifact co-created with students to solidify and reference our learning. This can be referenced in future lessons as well as during their end-of-unit assessment.
In conclusion, I can’t see how I was ever successful teaching particular math concepts without Wipebooks in my room. They truly are a game-changer that will motivate students to engage with your content, enjoy themselves while doing it, and help you as a teacher synthesize the main ideas of your lessons.
Martin Joyce, Teacher, Taylor Middle School
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